Posted on January 25, 2019 by Louise Howland
FindTime is a great solution for helping to arrange meetings with people either internal or external to your organisations. FindTime shows what days and times work the best for you and the attendees when available using free/busy data. It then gives all attendees the ability to vote on the selected times to work out which time is best for everyone. FindTime will then send out meeting invites on your behalf.
Hi, this is Dan May at ramsac and welcome to this, the latest in my series of blogs about how to get the most out of your Office 365 subscription. Today I want to introduce you to Microsoft’s FindTime. I think it’s one of the lesser known tools in the 365 suite but one that for me saves me minutes, sometimes hours each week. and is a brilliant tool for anybody that wants to organise meetings with a group of people, particularly meetings outside of your own organisation.
So, it’s not there by default, you actually have to download FindTime the first time you come to use it. So, if you just go to Google and Google FindTime it always comes up as one of the first choices alternatively I’ve got the webpage open on your screen now, it’s findtime.microsoft.com. The first time you go there it will ask you just to sign in, sign in using your normal Microsoft Office 365 username and password and follow the onscreen instructions just to download the tool. I am not going to run through those now, because it is fairly self-explanatory when you go in, and I have already got it installed on my machine.
When you have downloaded FindTime you will notice that it installs itself into your Outlook task bar. So the window I have got open here is in a new email message you will notice at the top here, I have just got this new meeting poll with the FindTime logo If I just quickly look at my own inbox, you’ll see where I’ve got an email selected, I can reply with a FindTime meeting poll as well. But for the purposes of this demonstration I am just going to stick to a brand-new meeting.
So, to start with, to create the meeting poll, you actually start this as an email, so this isn’t a calendar invitation. This is an email, and in your ‘To’ field you’re just going to type in the names of all the people that you want to invite to this particular meeting. So, I am just going to invite Louise and Simon, who I work with here at ramsac, their part of my marketing team. So, in this instance I am just going to show this with some internal contacts but as I say where this really becomes powerful when working with people outside your organisation where you don’t already have shared calendar views.
Give your email a subject line. Just a little watch word here the subject line of your email is what’s going to become the subject of your calendar invitation. So, do edit the subject line just to make it meaningful when this appears in your calendar. So, I am just going to say here ‘Meeting to discuss marketing plans for 2019.’ and I’ll just start typing my email in the normal way. so Dear Lou and Simon, can we meet up to discuss. When I have written my email, I am just going to click on this New Meeting Poll button as it appears up here, this will just take a moment to open. and what I get on the right-hand side of my email now is this FindTime sidebar, I select the duration of the meeting, so I want to look for a time that we can all make. That is for an hour-long meeting and I can decide with this tick box, whether I want to, do something within work hours and I can set the time zone for the meeting as well.
Now this gives me a week view of my calendar it’s just showing me 5 days because I have selected work hours. and I can already see, that actually I don’t have a free hour in these 3 days here. So, I can browse on into the following week next week’s looking a little better for me so let’s look at Monday the 17th and I can see I have an hour free at 1 o’clock so I will select that as an option. Now what it shows me in this window here, is 3 icons because there’s myself, Louise and Simon that I have invited to this meeting Because Lou and Simon are inside my organisation and I have shared Outlook calendars with them, I can actually see that we are all free at this time. and it’s only offered me times where we are all free. and it shows me that if I hover over I can see that this icon in green refers to me, the next one here is referring to Louise and the next one is referring to Simon and it shows that we’re all free If you are sending this invitation to somebody outside your organisation obviously, you’re not going to get that level of detail, it will just be a grey icon.
And you just select all the options that you’re free and their going to vote shortly anyway. So, I have selected Monday, let’s look at Tuesday, I am going to offer them 5 o’clock on Tuesday and 9:30 on Wednesday, and I am going to offer them 10 or 11 or 12 o’clock the following day as well. So, I can go through, I can have an unlimited amount of people in this meeting, so as many people as I put in the To: column, and I can offer as many choices as I like. I have selected 6 times for now, so when I am happy I have selected all the options that I want to offer out, I am just going to click on next and if I just go back to the top of this FindTime poll, I’ve got some meeting settings. The first thing I want to do is set the location of the meeting. By default, because I’m a Skype for Business user it has offered me an online meeting. If I don’t want this to be an online meeting if I just look at the Skype logo here and just click on it, it changes from blue to grey. and then it takes that automatic Skype offering out. and I can put in a location, so I can type in here ramsac HQ at GU7 1XW Wherever you want it to be, that’s the field that is going to into the location field of your calendar invite.
And then if I click on the meeting settings This is the bit that I think makes this tool really powerful. 3 simple options, Notifications, Holds and Auto schedule. And you’ll see if I hover over them it does tell me what they mean but just to briefly explain. Notifications by default is on, if I click it, it just changes to off. I will leave it on, Notifications just means that as each person in this meeting poll votes, selects their options I will get an email telling me they have voted and showing me what they have selected so that might mean I cut the meeting poll short if most people have voted rather than waiting until the last person has.
Auto schedule for me the thing that makes this tool really really powerful. So, if I leave Auto schedule on what that means is when the last person in this meeting poll has voted, the FindTime tool will look at everybody’s votes and it will select the meeting time that most people could do and it will look at people’s preferences as well (I will talk about preferences in just a minute). So, it will choose the best time for this meeting to happen it will close the meeting poll. It will automatically put this into my Outlook calendar with the subject line of my email with the location I’ve set in FindTime. and it will invite everybody that was in the distribution list.
So, if you think about the way you might have done this before you might have used a 3rd party tool like Doodle you may well have just sent an email with a list of options, you’ve got to wait for every person to reply you’ve then got to sift through those replies work out which was the most convenient, you’ve then got to into Outlook calendar, create the appointment, add all these people into the distribution list again. With FindTime that’s all just done for you There is no further admin, all you do, is you send out your options and FindTime takes care of the rest. so Auto Schedule leave that on, I suggest, it makes it really really powerful, it will do the rest of the work for you.
Holds by default is off, if I turn it on, what holds does is it marks provisional placeholders in my diary. So, if I was trying to send a meeting poll to somebody that is notoriously difficult to get time in their diary with, I might put holds on. And what that means, it doesn’t do anything to the recipient, but it means if I’ve offered them 6 choices It will mark all those 6 choices in my Outlook calendar as being provisional appointments. So that I know not to offer those times to anybody else and then when the meeting is finalised and scheduled it will remove those provisional holds and it will just leave the actual scheduled meeting in my Outlook calendar. So, I normally leave that off but if it is someone that I am desperate to meet with, and their notoriously hard to get time with, then it’s worth turning that on.
So, when I have put the settings in that I want all I need to do, is click insert to email. Just takes a moment to create the invite. If I just come back over here to the new message view you’ll see that within my email it’s just inserted this little poll window, and all the recipient has to do is select options. Now, the recipient does not have to have FindTime installed indeed they don’t need to be an Office 365 customer, and it doesn’t matter if they are using non-Microsoft products. So if they are using a Mac with iCal, for example that’s absolutely fine. Because when they select options, it will just take them to a website, they will see the 6 meeting times that I’ve offered, they can choose which ones to say yes to and no to, they can put all the ones that are available, and they will have a little heart indicator, which means they can choose a preference.
So, if they are available on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but Tuesday would be the easiest one for them they can select their preference, and then the auto-schedule tool will take those preferences into account, when working out when to schedule the final meeting for. So, all in all this saves me so much time in administration in organising meeting with clients, that I don’t have shared calendar views for. And I think if you have an administrative role or a personal assistant role, and you are organising large meetings with lots of people I think it’s no exaggeration to say this could save you probably upwards of half an hour for every meeting you have to organise so really powerful.
Once again, to download this, just go to, just Google FindTime or go to findtime.microsoft.com. Login using your Microsoft 365 credentials and follow the onscreen instructions. I hope that was useful to you. Be sure to check the rest of our blog posts. We have lots of handy hints on how to get the most out of Office 365, as well as general IT tips, at https://www.ramsac.com/ or you can get in touch by calling us on 01483 412040. Many thanks for your time today.Find out more about Office 365